There had to be a way out of the darkness. Somehow, in amongst the thick mire of despair that enveloped me, there had to be a beacon of light to guide me back towards sanity. I sat mutely before my doctor, unable to open my mouth. Unable to find the words to explain how my identity was crumbling away and I was losing my mind. I pushed a piece of paper across the table, on which I had written four words.
I don’t love them.
Tears ran down my face and dropped into my hands, which were clenching uncontrollably in my lap. The skin between my fingers was raw and angry from weeks of repetitive wringing hidden beneath baby blankets, my nerves frayed from the public display of perfection. She held my gaze and I pleaded silently with her to help me break out from the torturous prison in which I had been incarcerated for so many months.
I left that day with medication and a place in the queue for counselling services. A frustrating wait of six weeks for salvation from the black dog who shadowed my every move, waiting round corners and snapping at my heels. I handed my husband the blue leaflet on Post Natal Depression which assured him I would get better, on the same page where it listed the ways in which it could get worse. I assured him I didn’t feel as though I wanted to kill myself; I just didn’t want to be alive any more. It wasn’t the same thing, was it?
After ten medicated days I woke up and realised even before I opened my eyes that the grey cloud of intertia had lifted. My legs were no longer leaden, and the cotton wool that had filled my head was floating out, taking with it the feeling of irrational anxiety that had furrowed my brow and thinned my hair. It was by no means the end, but it was undoubtedly the beginning of the end. I had a new-found awareness of how I was malfunctioning; my inability to finish a sentence no longer confused or stressed me now that I could see it as symptomatic of an illness. I began to separate the chemical imbalance of depression from the legitimate grief of a mother who watched her first-born die, and I began the long overdue process of mourning for my son.
Some weeks later I felt the invisible cords of motherhood pulling me upstairs and into the darkened nursery, where I sat on the floor between the two cots. I listened to my sleeping babies breathing in turn, their soft sounds filling the room with a sense of tranquillity. They breathed life back into my soul that night, and what I felt for them threatened to break out from my heart and suffocate us all. It was all I could do to stop myself from snatching them from their dreams and hugging them tight to my chest, pouring months of guilt into my embrace. The tears fell freely onto my lap and splashed on my now still hands as I finally lay down my madness and realised it was over.
I loved them.